CHENNAI: The high cognitive workload of workers makes them prone to commit errors that can lead to accidents, researchers at Indian Institute of Technology Madras (IIT-M) have shown. The research was done using electroencephalogram (EEG) to assess mental sharpness during a crisis among operators in a chemical plant, said a statement from the institute.
EEG involves placing sensors on the scalp of a person to measure brain wave activity. Such measurements help in assessing the capability of the worker to respond to an emergency in real-time, which, in turn, could prevent accidents and mishaps on a factory floor.
The cognitive workload is the level of measurable mental effort that is expended by an individual to perform a task. This research was undertaken by a team led by Prof. Rajagopalan Srinivasan, Department of Chemical Engineering, Mohd Umair Iqbal and Prof. Babji Srinivasan. The results of this study have been published recently in the reputed peer-reviewed Journal of Computers and Computer Engineering.
Srinivasan said, “Human errors are the cause of nearly 70 per cent of industrial accidents, the world over. Human errors, whether at the planning or execution stage, depend not only on the skill of the worker but also on his/her mental state and sharpness at that time. Anybody’s performance will become error-prone if there is a mismatch between the demands of the task which the person is responsible for and their ability at that moment to handle it. Such a mismatch leads to high cognitive workload in human operators, often a precursor to poor performance.”
The researchers aim to study the potential of these EEG methods to improve human performance in various high-risk industries, thus opening a new paradigm to industrial safety and its links to the real-time mental state of workers.